When pitching anything hockey, it helps to have The Great One in your corner.
To advertise its first hockey game for the Wii gaming system, NHL Slapshot, EA Sports envisions what it's like for Wayne Gretzky to be out of the action but wanting to be in it at the same time. A television spot, breaking this week, shows Gretzky watching an NHL game, stick in hand. As plays are made, Gretzky swings, destroying multiple items in his living room.
A housekeeper, obviously disgusted by the repeated destruction, plugs in the Wii game and gives him the game's hockey-stick game controller (which is much smaller than a real stick). Gretzky and a young opponent (also supplied by the housekeeper) play the game with little further household destruction. The tagline is: "Authentic Hockey Action. Wii Hockey Stick."
"[Gretzky's] instantly recognizable. He's a father, and into trying to fuel that [friendly] competition between dads and sons," John Elder, president of Heat, the San Francisco agency that created the campaign, tells Marketing Daily. "The idea comes from the insight that when sports fans are really involved, they feel like they're playing something; they get very physical."
Elder likened the game play to similar imitative motions that EA Sports has used to great success for its Tiger Woods titles for the Wii, which allow gamers to simulate an entire golf swing while playing the game. "This is going to do the same thing for hockey, but it's aggressive and much more physical," he says.
In addition to the television commercial, the company and the agency are deepening the connection to the game, offering up many of the vases, lamps, bowls and other decorative objects that were trashed by Gretzky in the shoot for sale on eBay.
"It's a part of a trend to have a little piece of memorabilia that comes with something that you like," Elder says. "Movies are doing it, TV shows are auctioning things off -- we figured why not a commercial?"
The campaign will run in eight major, hockey-friendly markets in the United States and throughout Canada. Media duties were handled by Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, Ore. and Starcom in Toronto.